In order to understand what a website may or may not do for your business, you need to understand why most people surf the Net in the first place.
Last year, the Pew Research Center conducted a study that sheds light on consumer motives for using the Internet:
*Most are goal-oriented in that they generally are trying to either find information or communicate with others; in other words, they are NOT aimlessly surfing in order to discover some kind of cyber-treasure;
*75% seek and read news on demand almost daily with LOCAL news being the most popular and U.S. news the least desired;
*Two out of three cited the fact that the Internet allows them to pick and choose (control!) the news they read as opposed to a media outlet controlling what they see, read or hear;
*66% stated they feel that e-mail brings them closer to family and friends and 91% use e-mail on a regular basis;
*50% go on line to purchase products or services while 75% search for information about purchases they plan to make;
*46% visited travel sites; 62% weather sites; 50% educational; and 54% medicine and health; and
* Only 12% regularly trade stocks on line.
Deciphering the research data points up some conclusions that small business owners or managers should note:
*Glitz and glamour are not the way to go. Splashy screens and special effects will get your entire message bounced more often than not.
*Information is king (queen). Straight-forward data and straight talk are in. Hold on here! Is that not the same stuff we have been told about print and broadcast ads? Yep. Sure is!
* Web Meisters who advise you to entice web surfers with flash and then somehow trick them into paying attention to your message should be shown the door. This is the same philosophy practiced at the Center for Vehicle Advertising! It does not work. Avoid it.
* Consumers who use the Internet are no different than those who read, watch or listen to other media: they want control and are squeamish about any attempts to control them. If your offer is perceived by the consumer to have merit, they will investigate further; if not, color them GONE.
*Repeat customers online are just as important as new customers which means you not only need to provide information for first-time visitors, but also plenty of reasons to return to your site in the future. Once again . . . the same as a bricks and mortar store!
Marketing online will not do any more for you than marketing offline if you just dive in the pool and start splashing around without really knowing how to swim (market).
A business website can be productive if you think of it as an individual conference with your target prospect or customer and not just a glitzy posting attracting no one in particular. Hit me may produce results in Blackjack but rarely in the website biz.
Visualize your website as a display window for your business which is jammed to the rafters with products, services and ideas. Your window display should appeal to your target audience and should be changed often in order to keep them interested and coming back.
Many people who are not your target audience can and will look at your website (hit!) and will keep on walking down the street (surfing!)because you are not offering what they want or need. In the parlance of cyberspace, you want your target prospects or customers to bookmark your site.
Keep your content fresh and exciting. Offer your site visitor a reason to come on in: a free check-up, a worthwhile book, a 24 hour test drive . . . something that stirs action and takes your site beyond just being a brochure.
Final tip: repeat customers can and do bring in more business than any banner ad you purchase with our without razzmatazz.
Bob Schumacher books and articles give entrepreneurs a clear coffee-shop English perspective on how to steer their business or profession into the top 20% who achieve 80% of the business and profits. Visit http://www.20do80.com for a complete directory of his articles and books.